The term ‘house music’ means different things to different people. But despite many years of evolution some things never change. To get an understanding of the dos and don’ts for a house producer, check out these house music production techniques.
1. Watch the low end
House music is made for the club. But remember, the sound system there is nearly always going to be far stronger than the one you make your tracks on, especially at the low, bass end of the spectrum. Make sure you don’t go overboard with your bass and the volume of your kick when you’re at home or in the studio.
2. Understand minor keys
Nearly all house is made in a minor key. If you don’t know what that means, find out!
3. Consider the DJ
A house music track is designed to be used in conjunction with a load of other tracks as part of a DJ set. As obvious as this sounds, it’s easy to forget this when all you are listening to is your own track repeated. So be sure to make something that a DJ can blend easily with another track. That is, don’t have a complex melody right at the beginning. This may discourage a DJ from mixing it as it would be too risky.
4. Think of the end point of your track
What kind of DJ would play this? Where in the set would it best appear? What clubs would it sound good in? Which one of your friends would really go mad for it? Asking yourself these kinds of questions will keep your idea focused.
5. Don’t overdo it with compression
Yes, pretty much every layer of a piece of music in the house genre is going to have some kind of compression on it, but don’t assume that just because you’ve whacked a load of compression on everything that it’s going to sound good. If you don’t understand compression – and many half-decent artists don’t fully understand it, so you wouldn’t be alone – be sparing with it. Otherwise you will kill your original sounds.
6. Tune your percussion
It might sound like your kick drum doesn’t have a tone, for example, but pretty much every sound you use will have a tone of some sort. It’s just that some are more prominent than others. Experiment with a pitch tool on each bit of your percussion and you’ll be amazed what a difference just a few tweaks can make to the overall sound.
7. Listen to your productions on different systems
Studio monitor speakers can be misleading sometimes, because they’re so darn good. Always listen to your mixdowns on setups you’re familiar with - good or bad - like your car, ipod or phone. That will help you understand the right balance between the different parts in your track, because your subconscious can use the gazillion professional-quality tracks you’ve heard on those setups as a reference.
8. Make your melodic ideas repeatable
House music is a repetitive genre, don’t forget that. If you have what you think is a killer hook in your head, see what it sounds like when you repeat it for two minutes. It’s very tempting to do too much with one riff. Most of the time, the original musical idea ends up being toned down so it is more digestible for a longer period. For the majority of any track there needs to be suspense, not satisfaction.
9. Think of the concentration span of the listener
It’s generally good practice for a house track to have some variation every eight bars. Or at least, not have two consecutive eight-bar sections exactly the same. The fundamentals might repeat, like the melody and groove, but in order to sustain the listener’s interest, they’ll need to be some subtle changes in FX, or maybe another layer being added or taken away.
10. Listen to Todd Terry and Armand Van Helden:
These guys may have had their peak in the 90s, but they managed to smash the charts with some of the most simple house music you can get. What’s more, they remain respected by the underground today. Make a mental note of their simple formula, and remember that whatever exciting plugins, FX and instruments you may be using today, less can be more.
Now you’ve read these house music production techniques, get off the internet and start using them!